Saturday, February 05, 2011

Parents worried about 'racy magazines' should worry about parenting instead

Actress Lea Michele, who plays Rachel Berry on the popular television show Glee, has come under fire for "racy" magazine photo shoots.

The newest cover of Cosmopolitan magazine (left) features Lea Michele in a dress with a plunging neckline. The photo, combined with a story where Lea Michele apparently discusses a "perfect night" that includes a glass of wine and chatting with her boyfriend, is too much for some conservative parents who think Lea Michele is sending the wrong message to children.

Fox News recently published an article claiming that "Lea Michele's Sexy Switch Has Moms Mad". One such mom, Kim Trefcer, mom of a 12-year-old boy, told the news outlet that she thinks Lea Michele "is sending the wrong message. She plays such a 'good girl' on Glee and a lot of kids look up to her persona. Then she poses very provocatively on two magazine covers which makes my almost-13-year-old son very confused and offended." She continued by saying, "I find it frustrating as a parent who is trying to teach right from wrong to their kids and then you have things like this happen which is showing middle schoolers things like sex sells and all that goes along with that."

Here's what I find confusing and offensive: letting your prepubescent son look at Cosmo magazine. Cosmopolitan is intended for adult women; nearly 60% of the magazine's readers are between the ages of 18 and 34. Besides, Cosmo doesn't exactly have a reputation for being squeaky-clean. Word on the street is that the magazine has long-attracted readers who want to read racier stories than those found in other women's magazines.

Lea Michele is 24 years old. Yes, she plays a teenager on television. Yes, many teenagers watch her show. Yes, her recent photos show some skin. But Lea Michele is a grown woman posing for a magazine aimed at grown women. And while a past shoot in GQ included some pretty provocative photos, the bottom line is that parents need to stop blaming actresses and magazines for "showing things like sex sells".

Of course sex sells! The question is to whom is it selling? Parents need to start parenting and stop blaming. If Kim Trefcer is concerned about her son looking at photos of Lea Michele in low-cut dresses, don't let the kid buy Cosmo! If the boy stumbles across a copy of the magazine in the checkout line, maybe his mother should try having a discussion with him rather than shelter him from the real world. How does Trefcer plan to "teach right from wrong" to her child if she's not capitalizing on the teachable moments in front of her?

Next time Trefcer and her son stumble across a racy magazine cover, she should start a conversation with him. Ask him some questions. Point out the difference between fantasy (magazine cover photo shoots, adults playing teenagers on TV) and reality (Lea Michele is 24 years old; she likes — and is allowed — to dress up in fancy clothes sometimes). If the boy wants to read magazines, offer him a subscription to Boys' Life or Sports Illustrated for Kids.

A person can't claim to "teach" something by standing idly by and hoping that a "lesson" is absorbed passively. It's the same reason that abstinence-only sex education does not work; by avoiding the topic, children don't receive any factual information. The only way to ensure that our children learn right from wrong is to teach them, and teaching requires frank discussions and conversations.

Lea Michele is a talented actress and singer. If she chooses to pose for magazine covers, good for her. If the photos show some skin, so be it. If the photos appeared in a kids' magazine, Trefcer and other angry parents would have a legitimate reason to cry foul, but the photos are intended for adult readers. Ultimately, parents need to take responsibility for teaching their children right from wrong and rely a little less on blaming the media.


Prairie Girl said...

So well said, Danielle. Much head-nodding over here...

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear!